A Book Review. Sort of.
Available from all the usual suspects, History of Men’s Accessories: A Short Guide for Men About Town is the second book by my friend Nicholas Storey. I happily characterise him as a friend even though doing so publicly is not without risk because he is opiniated. However, one is of no consequence if one’s views have not upset someone somewhere at some point. That is precisely why the book must be read by anyone remotely interested in matters of men’s style, as is the case with his first book, History of Men’s Fashion: What the Well Dressed Man is Wearing. It is not the bland, please-your-advertisers-and-the-masses sort of work that one usually suffers. He does not subscribe to the views of contemporary pop fashionistas or to those of busybody moralists. His books reflect this fact, which is an excellent reason to read them, especially when it comes to menswear and men’s accessories, subject matters in which interesting books still in print are, to put it mildly, extremely rare.
Full disclosure: I was previously given access to the manuscript (or ‘first draft’ if you prefer — does anyone still hand write or typewrite anything?). I reviewed just a couple of chapters where I felt that I may be somewhat equipped to offer some substantive feedback but have chosen not to read the remainder until the final version was printed. Nicholas was not given the opportunity to review this entry before I clicked the ‘publish post’ button.
One thing that is worth pointing out is the title. As with his first book, ignore the main bit History of… The latter, subsidiary half A Short Guide for Men About Town broadly but faithfully declares the content of the book. I suspect that the History thing was added by the publishers in their attempt to make the books, in the publishers’ view, more marketable. When Hollywood films reach their Japanese distributors, they are often given Japanese titles that have nothing to do with the content of the film or with the original American title. One must assume that the distributors come up with titles that they feel will resonate more with media, critics and potential viewers in their market. Good for them. Nicholas’s first book is not a history book; neither is his second book.
His first book seems to have offended quite a few sad, earnest, suburban sensibilities. The passages that wound them up made me chortle, but the pitiful reaction from the minority led Nicholas to actually inform the readers of the second book that it was written in the spirit of fun. Needless to say, if you actually needed to read that warning, then you really should not start reading.
My honest and humble view is that the History of Men’s Accessories can and should be enjoyed by a diverse audience, from ‘novices’ to ‘experts’, even women. I would even recommend it to the anti-smoking brigade, especially Chapter 6, which is an excellent piece for those who enjoy tobacco as well as for those who like to wind themselves up about smoking and those who enjoy it.
If I were to raise one point of contention, then it would be about lighters. Nicholas does not recommend the use of petrol lighters to light a cigar. From a purist’s standpoint, this is understandable, given that the smell of burning kerosene affects the flavour of the first draw. However, I think that the nicer Dunhill Uniques tend to be the older, petrol editions. I do have a butane Unique, but I like my petrol Uniques better. Furthermore, I believe that they were made to be used rather than just being admired, and I actually like using them.
However, Nicholas expected disagreements, even from those that do not take themselves seriously.
Get your paws on a copy and enjoy it.